NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Sends back Pictures Of Vesta Asteroid

In case the president and his space-jockey friends haven’t been paying attention, most of us sentient beings prefer to have massive pieces of space rock kept as far away from Earth as possible. (NASA photo / August 2, 2011)

It might have been all the March Madness that did it. Or maybe whatever's ailing unhinged North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is spreading.

But one thing is abundantly clear: President Barack Obama has gone bonkers. And not just regular bonkers — he has gone SPACE BONKERS.

Late last week, a top U.S. senator revealed that Obama's 2014 budget sets aside $100 million in planning money for a NASA mission that would send a ship into space to capture a 500-ton asteroid in a bag. So far, that all sounds perfectly reasonable. Asteroids are notorious galactic monstrosities that should be rounded up and placed in bags and summarily executed.

But rather than shooting the asteroid with a laser beam or allowing Bruce Willis to blow it to smithereens in a heart-wrenching final act of valor, the plan calls for the spaceship to bring the asteroid back toward Earth and place it in orbit around the moon.

In case the president and his space-jockey friends haven't been paying attention, most of us sentient beings prefer to have massive pieces of space rock kept as far away from Earth as possible. Back in February, more than 1,000 people were injured when a meteorite exploded over central Russia, reigniting global paranoia that we might one day get asteroid-walloped out of existence.

So why invite a 25-foot-wide asteroid to hang out around the moon?

Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat and apparent asteroid sympathizer, said in a statement that astronauts would eventually land on the rock to take samples and work on "developing ways to deflect" any future asteroids.

We must learn to destroy deadly asteroids, so we're going to bring one really close to the planet we don't want it to hit and give it a look? That's like saying we wish Donald Trump would talk less and then putting a microphone in orbit around his face.

Scientists have said in published reports that the proposed asteroid is small enough that if it popped out of the moon's orbit, it would burn up in Earth's atmosphere. But what if these are the same scientists who missed the incomingasteroid that caused millions of Russians to simultaneously Putin their pants?

I am all for space exploration in general, and specifically for anything that gets me closer to owning a light saber. But this seems like we're going out of our way to outsource work to a galactically foreign lump of useless matter when we have plenty of that here at home.

Why can't we put Americans to work building a faux-asteroid (Fauxsteroid™) using things we don't need, like old car tires or unread Bill O'Reilly novels or Congress?

Or, better yet, why don't we let technology provide us with all the Fauxsteroid material we could ever need. Bear with me while I explain:

An Israeli company called uMoove is developing an app for smartphones and tablets that will allow the cameras on each device to monitor users' eye movements. Samsung Electronics is also reportedly including eye-tracking technology on one of its newest phones.

As the New York Times described uMoove's app: "Head tilts can control scrolling, and eye movements can control more precise actions like drawing shapes; staring at an object on the screen for a few seconds can select it. Another potential action is a head nod to hit 'OK' to answer a command prompt."

So rather than having to go through the laborious process of using your finger to scroll down a page or click on a link, you can just move your eyes and the device does the heavy lifting.

This is just what our society needs — a way to further reduce even the slightest exertion. Television remotes did away with the need for legs, reality television made brains obsolete and now eye-tracking technology will render arms a charming relic of yesteryear.

Within a decade, there will be millions of people who are little more than gelatinous sacks of human meat that get plugged into the wall and blink all day into their Google Glasses. And THOSE are the people we're going to turn into a Fauxsteroid.

The first question you might have is, "Wouldn't it be better if we called it a Nerdsteroid?" And I would high-five you for asking that and completely agree. But the second question might be: "Isn't that kind of cruel?"

And my answer is: Of course not, silly.

The muscle-less flesh people would be "bundled" in a very humane manner and provided with everything they need to survive in orbit around the moon: oxygen, Cheetos and a blazing-fast wireless Internet signal. Then they'd be allowed to drift around and around the moon, stopping and starting YouTube videos with their eyes and tossing about Angry Birds with blinks and head bobs.

Meanwhile, our astronauts would be gently walking across the Nerdsteroid figuring out how an actual asteroid on a collision path with Earth might someday be diverted.

And if that research doesn't lead us anywhere, the denizens of the Nerdsteroid will at least have a great view of the Earth's ultimate destruction. And future races will be able to learn about us from the blog entries they write with their eyes.

rhuppke@tribune.com